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Journalists anticipate new challenges in covering Homeland Security department

From the Winter 2003 issue of The News Media & The Law, page 4.

From the Winter 2003 issue of The News Media & The Law, page 4.

On Jan. 24, 2003, the doors opened at a new law enforcement and investigatory agency with functions taken from as many as 22 other federal agencies. The reorganization of these operations reportedly marks the biggest government bureaucratic shake-up since the creation of the Department of Defense half a century ago.

Even before the new Department of Homeland Security opened its doors, controversies arose over not just how it would operate and exercise its powers, but what level of access to information it would allow, and how it would respond to news media requests.

Will new exemptions be carved out of the Freedom of Information Act, either by law or by practice? Will officials and agents feel free to subpoena the records of journalists during investigations? Will the new director consider procedural safeguards, like those adopted years ago by the Department of Justice, to ensure that freedom of the press will not be denied? And will those practices be followed?

But “homeland” security is not the only worry for journalists covering anti-terrorism initiatives. Military actions abroad often present a greater challenge, as questions over disclosure of information, access to troops and restraints on reporting seem to resurface with each conflict.

The articles that follow address these questions.